Thursday, August 15, 2013

End of summer

The fields around the village are dotted with rolls of hay, evoking the end of a season. These always remind me of Monet and his numerous studies of haystacks at different times of day and in various seasons, colors changing from golden to peach, to purple and blue. It's true that depending upon the moment, the colors and length of shadows change dramatically with the light.


Last week I gave a three-day art course to Veronique and her son Barnabé, who were in town visiting our neighbors Anne and Christine.

Barnabé is not quite six but already a prolific artist, spending hours a day making pictures and inventing elaborate stories to accompany them. Veronique is an art historian. I felt I had to come up with a project that would be varied enough to be interesting to both of them, engaging the imagination of a child while not being too basic for his talented parent. I chose to have them make a book which would be a keep-sake of their vacation in Montmirail. We made several pages trying out various image-making techniques. This is a leaf print made with watercolor. Directions here.

We also made monotypes, created by painting with water color onto acetate sheets, allowing the paint to dry thoroughly and then running the plates through a press with dampened etching paper.

I discovered a new technique I had never tried before. I loved the results. This is called a gelatin print, which is taken off a bed of hardened gelatin. Directions here. It yields two prints from one ink application and leaf/flower arrangement. A positive/negative, like these,

And a more painterly one. I really enjoyed this technique and I'm anxious to play with it a little more.

We also made cyanotypes and vegetable stamp prints. I thought that Barnabé might have encountered some of these methods at school, but in fact they were all new to him.

He especially enjoyed any of the projects that involved turning the big wheel of the press. We made some beautiful blind emboss prints and these seemed very interesting to Barnabé.

There were various other pages as well. Scraffito, plaster paper drawings and more. We bound them into a book which we covered with cloth after adding a silk screen embellishment on the cover. All this we bound with a Japaneses stab binding.

The hours rolled by very quickly. I think it was fun for them to discover many different ways to put images on paper and then to put them all together in a little souvenir album.


We are leaving for a couple of weeks vacation in the mountains of Slovenia with our family. I'll be sitting by a river somewhere with sketchbook in hand. In early September I'll post photos here. Meanwhile I leave you with this rather romantic photo of our chambre jaune, taken this morning as the late summer sun streamed in through the windows.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dog days of summer

Hot summer days and nights make me incredibly lazy. The garden has gone untidy and tired and the same seems to have happened to me. Even if there is plenty of action in town, I myself have slowed way down.

In the village the yearly Medieval festival was celebrated at the turning of the calendar. We woke up on Saturday morning to our sleepy village filled with huge crowds of celebrants dressed in costume.

Of course our site is well-suited to reenactments from the days of knights and ladies.

Emily and her family stayed with us during the festival. It was the first time Quinn had been here for it and he found it all very fascinating. I suppose it was like a story book come to life for him. He called me to the window one day and pointed across to the castle where the young student who gives guided tours in the afternoon was sitting on a folding chair waiting for clients. "Look! There's the princess," he said with great enthusiasm.

I love the beautiful Percheron horses who gave cart rides through town. They're massively large and strong. They seem so noble to me.

Quinn took a pony ride which was a bit tame for him, as he has become quite a competent horseback rider. Still, any chance to get on a horse is a pleasure for him.

This month we're been able to welcome friends and family who are staying with us for extended visits. James and Adric, who are on their way back to California for the foreseeable future, have stopped off for a long French visit before their departure. It is such a pleasure to have them around.

Philippine, the youngest daughter of the neighbors at our old moulin came along for a few days to brush up on her English language skills. And our friend David, from California, has just sold his house in France and stopped off to visit for a week or so before heading back home. Meanwhile, we shuffle rooms around a little to accommodate clients as well, making for a very lively atmosphere.

One recent day we took a lunch and our kayaks and went into our nearest big town, La Ferté-Bernard, where they have a very nice picnic area.

We chose a spot between the river and lake, near the boat launch.

We took turns in the boats, read, snoozed, ate and worked the crossword puzzle.

The weather was just right, the park was sparsely populated and we had no obligations whatsoever.

It made for an exquisitely relaxing and enjoyable afternoon.